NORDHOEK, South Africa — Sitting at his laptop computer, Louis Liebenberg compares two maps of the same area: While the first is plotted thickly with yellow dots, the yellow areas on the second map are far sparser.
These dots represent sightings of lowland gorillas recorded by trackers both before and after an outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Lossi Sanctuary in the Republic of Congo. Using CyberTracker, a software program that allows conservationists to record their observations in the field on handheld computers linked to global positioning system, or GPS, units, the trackers were able to gather data that revealed in detail the decimation of the local gorilla population.
Initially skeptical, scientists later confirmed their findings that the virus is killing gorillas and other animals, and published an article that appeared recently in the journal Science.
“It’s quite a stunning example of what fairly regular collection of data by game guards doing patrols can tell us,” Liebenberg said.